New Delhi: India and Thailand on Friday agreed to deepen their security engagement and defence partnership as Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a double entry e-visa for Thai nationals to facilitate their visit to the Buddhist circuit.
Addressing the media here with visiting Thailand Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha following delegation-level talks, Modi said India and Thailand were aware that rapid spread of terrorism and radical ideology poses a common challenge to both countries.
He said that close security partnership would help the two countries secure their people from such threats.
“Beyond terrorism, we have agreed to further deepen our security engagement in the fields of cyber security, narcotics, transnational economic offences and human trafficking,” Modi said.
Prayut Chan-o-cha, who arrived in India on Thursday, met External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj earlier in the day. He was given a ceremonial reception on the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan in the morning.
Prayut Chan-o-cha is accompanied by his wife and a high-level delegation including Deputy Prime Minister, several cabinet ministers, senior officials and business leaders.
This is his first visit to India after assuming office of Thailand Prime Minister in May 2014.
In his statement after bilateral talks, Modi said that smooth flow of goods, services, capital and human resources needs a strong network of air, land and sea links.
“We have, therefore, prioritised completion of India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral highway and early signing of the Motor Vehicles Agreement between the three countries,” he said.
Modi said that India was celebrating 150th birth anniversary of B.R. Ambedkar, the chief architect of the Constitution, and the document will be translated into Thai language.
“I am also happy to announce that to welcome more tourists from Thailand to India, and to help them enjoy their visits to Buddhist sites in India, we will soon facilitate double entry e-tourist visas for citizens of Thailand,” he said.
He said Festival of India in Thailand, and Festival of Thailand in India will be held next year to commemorate 70 years of establishment of diplomatic relations.
Modi described Thailand as “a trusted and valued friend and one of our closest partners in Southeast Asia.”
He said the two countries had also agreed to forge a close partnership in “defence and maritime cooperation”.
He said the partnership will be shaped by “sharing of expertise and experiences, greater staff exchanges and more exercises, cooperation on counter-piracy on seas, deeper engagement in naval patrolling and building linkages in the field of defence research and development and production”.
Modi said there was particular synergy between Thailand’s strengths in infrastructure, particularly tourism infrastructure and India’s priorities in this field.
Information Technology, pharmaceuticals, auto-components, and machinery were some other areas identified for enhanced collaboration.
“We also see early conclusion of a balanced comprehensive economic and partnership agreement as our shared priority,” Modi said.
He said that a more diversified commercial agreement between the two countries would benefit the two economies while bringing greater regional economic prosperity.
The joint statement issued after the talks said that both sides will also be renegotiating a new bilateral investment treaty.
It said that Thailand Prime Minister invited Indian investments under the cluster development policy.
India offered Thailand indigenously developed GPS Aided Geo Augmented Navigation services, which provides advanced navigation and location assistance.
The statement said two leaders reiterated their strong support for the reform of the United Nations. “The Thai side acknowledged India’s credentials for permanent membership of the UN Security Council,” it said.
Prayut Chan-o-cha invited Modi to visit Thailand, which he accepted.
The Thailand Prime Minister also met some Indian business leaders in the capital. He will visit Bodh Gaya in the second leg of his visit before returning home on Saturday.
Officials said that extensive people-to-people contacts were central to the India-Thailand relationship. In 2015, more than one million Indian tourists visited Thailand and over 100,000 Thai tourists visited India.
There have been regular coordinated patrols between the two navies, annual exercises between the two armies and also the first ever table-top air exercise between the two air forces. India has been participating in multilateral Cobra Gold exercise held in Thailand as an ‘Observer Plus’ country.